To The Point

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The latest figure caught up in the Petraeus scandal is General John Allen, current Commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The Pentagon says he exchanged tens of thousands of pages of e-mail with one of the women caught up in the FBI’s Petraeus investigation. (Jill Kelley, a socialite friend of David and Holly Petraeus, told the FBI she’d been getting threatening emails. The FBI traced them to Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell and discovered that she and Petraeus had an affair. Petraeus resigned as Director of the CIA.) Have national security or military effectiveness been compromised?  Is there a cover-up of the CIA’s role in Benghazi, or are routine cases of high-level hanky-panky being magnified by the politics of exposure?

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In last night’s final debate, it wasn’t the challenger who went on the offensive as much as the incumbent.  President Obama called Mitt Romney ”wrong and reckless,” and tried to associate him with policies of the past. Romney said US influence is “receding” around the world, but blamed the economy. On foreign affairs, he was all about peace, in both style and content, but he did not offer policies much different from those of Obama. Was he intimidated, inexperienced or reassuring voters he would not be a warmonger? Was Obama aggressive out of desperation? Did the world learn much last night about how the US might deal with crucial issues over the next four years?

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Mitt Romney jumped a bit in the polls after last week’s debate, while the President and top advisers concede it was not his best performance. But they’re promising a different outcome with two more debates to go. Meantime, what about that passivity and lack of energy? Is it evidence that Barack Obama doesn’t really isn’t enjoying the job, not just the give and take of debating but getting others to bend to his will? Was Republican Governor Romney any better at working with Democrats in Massachusetts than the President’s been at dealing with Congress?

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President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are besieged with advice about how to score points with voters in three debates starting day after tomorrow. But with almost half the electorate, it may be getting too late. Early voting is already underway in states that could decide the outcome before Election Day. Meantime, Republicans have made “voter fraud” a major issue, and Republican legislatures have passed “voter ID” laws, even when there’s not much evidence that fraud is widespread.  Now, in one of this year’s political ironies, the Republican Party has fired Strategic Allied Consulting — a firm it hired to increase GOP registration. We hear how new forces are re-shaping national campaigns.

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This year’s presidential campaign is supposedly about the economy, but economic indicators make political predictions more confusing than ever. Consumer confidence is on the rise, for example, but consumer spending is on the decline. Does that favor ObamaRomney — or is it a draw? Is economic uncertainty one reason that neither candidate has been very specific about plans for economic improvement? We compare what they have said and how they stand in the latest polls. Whatever the numbers show now, how long will they last?

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Last night in Charlotte, President Barack Obama made his plea for a second term with a tone of humility. “I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the President.” The speech lacked the soaring rhetoric of candidate Obama in 2008. Instead, it was grounded in the prose of reality – what’s been accomplished, what remains to be done. Nor did Obama match the impassioned, folksy delivery of Bill Clinton from the night before, but he did paint a definitive choice for voters, outlining the stark differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. Did he manage to persuade those important swing voters to give him more time?

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For almost an hour, former President Bill Clinton had the delegates on their feet last night, mixing details about policy with warnings about a potential Republican victory. It was vintage Clinton — blistering Mitt Romney's Republicans at the same time he was advocating cooperation. Even when he got wonkish, it was clear that both the audience and Clinton were having fun. Reporters, commentators and delegates all agree that he'll be a tough act to follow. We hear excerpts, informed analysis and predictions of what to expect tonight when the nominee for re-election finally takes the stage. We also ask delegates from several states to describe the convention experience.

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Tonight, former President Bill Clinton will be the prime time speaker who nominates the current President Barack Obama for re-election. Republicans claim he’ll just remind voters of better days. Is he a risky choice for prime time? Will he overshadow the man he’ll nominate? We talk about a stormy relationship with the biographer of both Clinton and Obama, whose relationship is one of the most fascinating in current American politics.

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At the Democratic convention in Charlotte last night, first lady Michelle Obama told the story of a rise to the White House from humble origins without losing family values. Without ever mentioning Mitt and Ann Romney, she created an image of stunning contrasts. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro also electrified the delegates, the first Latino to keynote a Democratic convention. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick lauded President Obama’s long list of accomplishments, made even more impressive considering that “Congressional Republicans have made obstruction itself the centerpiece of their governing strategy.” We hear some highlights.

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Mitt Romney has taken heat for not being specific about proposals for turning the country around. Now it’s the President’s turn. Barack Obama has not laid out a specific second-term agenda, and Democrats have fumbled the ball when Paul Ryan asks, “Are you better off than four years ago?” With so many people still hurting, it’s hard to run on the record. What can the President do to bring disappointed voters back into the fold? On Day One in Charlotte, we hear from reporters, Democrats and conservative columnist David Brooks of the New York Times. We also look at the Democrats’ focus on the Latino vote, including tonight’s Keynote Address and efforts at mobilization.  (We also heard KCRW’s Saul Gonzalez speaking with Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.)

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This week, To the Point is in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Democratic National Convention gets underway tomorrow. We discuss the Party’s unsettled relations with organized labor and about the issue of race since the election of America’s first black president. Also, a new poll finds that the Republican convention changed few minds.

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